'No Big Boats' protest in Venice

'No Big Boats' protest in Venice

On Sunday September 17 around 500 demonstrators gathered by foot and by boat at the San Marco basin, to protest against the transit of the big cruise boats close to the fragile Venice.

The committee which called for the demonstration accuses the floating giants passing just in front of San Marco, in the Giudecca channel, of damaging the city and the lagoon environment. Angelo Marzollo, ex-UNESCO official for the preservation of Venice’s channel system and venetian lagoon, is one of the most authoritative voices who support and take part in the protest. For years he has stated that the big cruise boats cause a disaster to the lagoon environment and dig deep in its floor, causing the calm lagoon to look more and more like the sea. And this puts the delicate Venice structures in a real danger.

Around one hundred little boats reached the San Marco channel while many demonstrators remained on the shores. Among them all the most important Nothern Italy environmentalist and ‘common goods’ (‘beni comuni’ – single issue campaigns often about public services such as water, anti-nuclear etc) struggles were represented, No Tav and No Dal Molin struggles included. The protesters succeeded in delaying the big boats for three hours, while a police helicopter kept flying just few meters above people heads, raising up disturbing waves, for mere intimidation purposes.

This is not the first “on the water” protest from the committee and its supporters, but their cause has become stronger since the Costa Concordia disaster, which drew attention to the danger represented by floating cruise giants. In Venice just the big boats perform 3,500 “touches” a year, meaning that they pass close to its monuments to “greet” them just as Costa Concordia was doing with Giglio Island just before it sank. Each boat can be 300 meters long, 60 meters high and weigh over 90,000 tons. The pollution and the risks for the artistic heritage are immense.

After sinking of the Costa Concordia the Mario Monti government, at the suggestion of Minister of Environment Clini and of Economic Development Passera, signed a decree to reduce big boat “greetings”. It explicitly referred to Venice, forbidding any transit in the San Marco channel for boats over 40,000 tons. However, the blocking of passages was subject to the existence of an alternative route (I don’t know how is it a “road for boats”!). Needless to say, in the low Venice lagoon there are no such alternatives, and the environmentalists are also worried about the possibility that this decree opens the doors to some new enormous digging project in the sea floor next to the city. The cruise companies pay 40,000 euros for every passage, but the city of Venice itself doesn’t get a cent of that money, that goes directly to the harbour authorities, who are dependent on the state.

The demonstrators say that there is just one solution to save Venice and its natural environment: the complete stop of the cruise boat transit in the lagoon.